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Kings of Clutch: 10 NHL players who had a knack for coming up with big playoff goals

Jared Clinton
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Kings of Clutch: 10 NHL players who had a knack for coming up with big playoff goals

Joe Sakic Image by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images/NHLI

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Kings of Clutch: 10 NHL players who had a knack for coming up with big playoff goals

Jared Clinton
By:

Logan Couture’s second career playoff overtime winner was also his seventh post-season game winning goal, but he has a long way to go to match these clutch performers.

Scoring a big goal in the post-season, particularly an overtime winner, is one of those childhood hockey dreams come to life, and San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture got to live it in Game 2 against the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Sharks and Golden Knights battled to a 3-3 draw through 60 minutes Saturday night — 80 minutes, really, when you include the first scoreless extra frame — which set the stage for Couture to deliver some playoff heroics. And minutes into the second overtime period, deliver he did. After a Jon Merrill hook put Vegas down a skater five minutes into the second extra frame, San Jose quickly went to work on the power play and Couture needed only seven seconds to find twine and end the contest.

This isn’t the first time Couture has come up big in the playoffs, though. The playoff overtime winner was actually the second of his career — the first, against the Los Angeles Kings in 2013, also came on the power play, coincidentally — and Couture’s marker moved him into third all-time in Sharks history when it comes to post-season game-winners. By scoring his seventh game-winning goal in the playoffs, Couture also moves up the all-time list when it comes to clutch playoff goals. He’s one of only 125 players in NHL history to score at least seven game-winning goals in the playoffs.

Couture still has a long way to go to match up to some of the game’s all-time greatest clutch scorers, however. Here are the 10-best clutch scorers in NHL playoff history:

10. JAROMIR JAGR
You don’t get to become a living legend without the numbers or big game and big moment performances to back it up. Jagr checks all the boxes, though. Not only is he a near point per game player in the playoffs across more than 200 games, but Jagr has fired home 16 game-winning goals — tying him for ninth all-time — and he has four overtime winners. He had a certain knack for getting those extra-time goals scored in a timely fashion, as well, with each goal coming before the midpoint of the first overtime.

9. PATRICK MARLEAU
He doesn’t have a Stanley Cup on his resume, but there’s no denying Marleau is as proven a playoff performer as there is or has been since he broke into the NHL. Dating back to 1997-98, Marleau’s rookie season, no player has rifled home more tallies in the post-season. He has 72 goals in 184 playoff outings, and 16 of those goals were of the game-winning variety, including four scored in overtime. Marleau is still getting it done as he inches close to his 39th birthday, too. He scored four goals in seven games for the Maple Leafs this post-season.

8. CHRIS DRURY
Statistically speaking, Drury’s resume in the playoffs isn’t as impressive as others on this list. He played in 135 games and scored 47 goals and 89 points. That’s not half bad, true, but it pales in comparison to even Marleau and Jagr. How, then, does Drury finish ahead of both? Consider that more than one-third of his career playoff tallies were game winners. He scored 17 and had at least one in every trip to the playoffs save the 2010-11 campaign. Drury really ran the gamut when it came to timing, too. His first playoff OT winner came with 31 seconds left in the first extra frame. His fourth and last game just 18 seconds into overtime.

7. CLAUDE LEMIEUX
Not the Lemieux most would be expecting to see on a list of clutch playoff performers, but the uber-pest most certainly had a knack for coming to play in big games. Let’s go through his playoff resume, shall we? Four Stanley Cups, 80 goals and 158 points in 234 games, three post-seasons with at least three game winners and three overtime winners. That includes a Game 7 deciding overtime goal for the Canadiens in 1986, a tally that put Montreal on the path to winning the Stanley Cup.

6. BRETT HULL
Hull is tied for the all-time lead in post-season game-winning goals having scored 24 over the course of his career, and it should come as no surprise that one of the most pure scorers the game has ever seen finds his way onto this list. You might be asking why, though, Hull isn’t top three. The answer is that he doesn’t have the OT heroics of others. Only once in his career did Hull score an overtime winner in the playoffs. It was a pretty big one, however, because Hull’s lone playoff OT winner was the Stanley Cup clincher for the 1999 Dallas Stars.

5. WAYNE GRETZKY
The post-season game-winning goals record is one of those rare marks that Gretzky has to share, as he and Hull both have 24 to their name. So, if he and Hull are even, what sets Gretzky apart? Aside from being the greatest offensive player in league history, Gretzky delivered more often than Hull when it was do-or-die. On four separate occasions, Gretzky scored overtime winners in the post-season. There’s no series-deciding or Stanley Cup-winning goal in the bunch, mind you, but we’ll still give No. 99 the edge because, well, he’s Wayne Gretzky.

4. PATRICK KANE
Kane doesn’t land inside the top ten when it comes to game-winning goals in the post-season. Matter of fact, he doesn’t even crack the top 30. He has 11 game winners in the post-season over the course of his career, less than half of Gretzky’s total all-time league leading total. So, how does Kane top ‘The Great One’? Simple. Kane has the edge in timeliness. Only two players have scored more overtime winners in the post-season than Kane, who has five in his career, and on three different occasions his goal in extra time was the series-deciding marker. That includes the Stanley Cup winner in 2010, scored in overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers.

3. GLENN ANDERSON
Anderson and Kane are tied for third all-time when it comes to playoff overtime winners, both having scored five in their respective careers. Anderson also has a series-deciding goal, too, scoring the overtime winner that buried the Los Angeles Kings in the 1985 post-season just 46 seconds into an extra frame. What puts Anderson one spot ahead of Kane is the sheer volume of game-winners the Hall of Famer registered. Seventeen times he was the triggerman on the goal that decided the outcome of a playoff game. That’s good enough to put him into a tie for fifth all-time in playoff game winners.

2. MAURICE RICHARD
How are you going to have a list about clutch playoff goal scoring without the very player for whom the NHL’s goal scoring crown is named? You can’t, and we won’t. Richard’s numbers are incredibly impressive given how short the post-season was during his heyday. He maxed out at 12 games in a single post-season, yet he still managed to score 18 game winners over the course of his 133 playoff games. That’s a game winner in, oh, nearly 14 percent of his post-season action. Better yet, one-third of his game winners were scored in overtime, including the clincher in Game 5 of the 1957 semi-final against the New York Rangers. 

1. JOE SAKIC
Not Jagr, not Richard and not even Gretzky can compare to Sakic’s level of clutch scoring. He doesn’t have as many game winners to his name as either Hull or Gretzky. In fact, Sakic is tied with Lemieux for third place having scored 19 over the course of his career. But what puts Sakic at the head of the class is his history of overtime heroics. Sakic has single-handedly ended post-season contests eight times by scoring the overtime winner, and his eight playoff OT goals are the most in NHL history. One interesting note is when Sakic scored the goals, too. Three times, he ended overtime within two minutes of the first extra frame. Five times it took him less than six minutes. And all but one of his playoff OT goals came in the first overtime. The outlier, however, is an overtime tally in a marathon triple-overtime contest against the Chicago Blackhawks in 1996. Funny enough, though, Sakic scored 4:33 into the third frame — yet another goal coming not long after the puck was dropped on an extra period.

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Kings of Clutch: 10 NHL players who had a knack for coming up with big playoff goals